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Rated: ASR · Draft · Fanfiction · #2189739
edit Of Late One Night, plus a partial Twins story.
There’s something about the darkest part of the night that soothed Astrid. She’d sit outside her hut and drink in the calm. During the day, she was always busy. Living on Dragon’s Edge was a responsibility, and Astrid took the duties there seriously. She honed her battle skills, practiced maneuvers with Stormfly, and did her share of hunting and fishing. She supported Hiccup as he led, and was willing to fight for all her team: Hiccup, Fishlegs, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, and Snotlout. But the deep night was hers alone. When she needed to think or to relax, she turned to the stillness. No one, barring Stormfly, knew she did this; not even her betrothed Hiccup was aware of it.

Tonight, she settled outside her hut to think about Hiccup. He seemed inattentive and that was unlike him. Hiccup’s ability to stay on task was missing and his mind would wander more frequently. He was jumpier, too. Astrid no longer came up behind him or tapped Hiccup on the shoulder. He looked worn, burdened, and dull. Clearly, Hiccup was exhausted.

He refused to discuss his sleeplessness with anyone. Hiccup knew he couldn’t lie believably. They’d all tried fruitlessly to reach him; even Astrid failed to reach him, and he usually listened to her.

Life on their outpost made them a team. The six of them—Hiccup, Tuffnut, Ruffnut, Fishlegs, Snotlout, and herself—learned a great deal about each other. Astrid had been walking late one evening when she learned one of Hiccup’s secrets. Walking past his home, she heard Hiccup talking disjointedly. He moaned, sounding like he was arguing with someone, followed by the croon his dragon Toothless offered when Hiccup was distraught. Astrid drew closer, afraid someone was threatening Hiccup. No one got to hurt Hiccup, not with Astrid there. She peered inside.

Hiccup was thrashing on the floor, lost in a nightmare. Toothless gripped him in an embrace, hoping to calm Hiccup and afraid to leave him and seek help. Toothless looked at Astrid, pleading for her assistance, and Astrid realized this wasn’t Hiccup’s first nightmare. Astrid closed the door again, paused a moment, and rapped firmly.

“Hiccup? Are you awake?” Astrid forced an uncertain note into her voice. “ I was hoping to come in because...no, never mind.”

She heard Toothless give a snort, then Hiccup’s voice.”Astrid? What is it? Is something wrong?”

Toothless nudged the door open to reveal an anxious Hiccup attaching his prosthetic. He stood and stumbled to Astrid, studying her face and searching for her axe. Oh, gods. He thought they were under attack.

“Hiccup, it’s okay. Nothing’s wrong. I...I just couldn’t sleep and thought you might be awake, too. Sorry I woke you up. Um...go back to sleep, Hiccup. ‘Night.”

Hiccup smiled at her, and she saw the fear drain out of him. He believed her little fiction of sleeplessness, and she saw his mind settle on this mundane event. Good. Next should come...

“Astrid, I am always willing to spend time with you, even in the middle of the night. I’m glad you came here. We can sit and talk awhile, if you want.”

Yup, right on schedule. Hiccup wanted to look after her now. He took her concerns seriously, and decided to comfort her. This man, this good and decent man, cared for her and needed to be needed. Hiccup was now in control of something real and able to put aside the nightmare. She visibly relaxed.

“Toothless, bud, can you come over here? We need a backrest.”

The dragon rose, settling himself behind them and gave Astrid a nod. They were going to discuss Hiccup later. He hated showing weakness, and that was his weakness. Sweet, stubborn, dorky Hiccup needed both Astrid and Toothless to guard him. She couldn’t prevent the nightmares, but she could offer covert solace.

“Thanks, Hiccup.” Her smile was genuine. “This is exactly what I wanted.”


§ § §


After another busy day at Dragon’s Edge, Astrid bedded down early. Her weariness wasn’t simply physical; she needed time alone tonight. The others never realized this, but she trained herself to wake up after a few hours to find solace in the darkest part of the night. The solitude quieted her spirit and rejuvenated her strength. Uninterrupted time was rare and she cultivated it for her peace of mind. Tonight, she was thinking about Hiccup.

Hiccup led them to create this outpost and make it a place they could live, with huts, a stable for the dragons, training grounds, and outer defenses. He was the chief on Dragon’s Edge. His steady, reliable manner was his strength. He possessed wisdom, patience, and a need to solve everyone’s problems. Hiccup held the six of them together. Hiccup was also Astrid’s beloved, and one day, she hoped, her husband. If he didn’t get himself killed first.

Fishlegs noticed it first—Hiccup lost focus and forgot things he’d normally recall. His newest map entries lacked detail, and the map was one of his obsessions. He thought more slowly, and forgot to draw up patrol routes. Hiccup began edging into anger with the others more often, too. Most people found the twins wild and idiotic, and Snotlout arrogant and clueless; Astrid certainly did. But Hiccup restrained himself to face palms, sarcasm, and the occasional “Oh, Thor.” Hiccup’s anger was reserved for their enemies, not them.

The six of them, led by Hiccup, established an outpost to search out and protect dragons. The creation of the outpost was made possible by the team and their dragons. The huts, stable, and training ground were the fruit of their own efforts. Hiccup designed most of the structures, while Astrid put a lot of thought into their defenses. Dragon’s Edge existed because all of them worked to build it.

The headiness of exploring outside their home archipelago lingered, but the added responsibility of protecting the wild dragons from hunters filled much of her time. Astrid was a warrior, and she took her job seriously, protecting the Edge, her friends, and the dragons with skill and heart. She may not like the mundane tasks of cooking or clearing land, but it was necessary and she took part in it. Sometimes she wanted to scream: at the twins for their idiocies or Snotlout when he hit on her or Fishlegs’ nervousness. None of this prevented her from giving her best to benefit their group.

Hiccup was the person she counted on most. His stability and exceptional patience with the others kept her sane. Back on Berk, his father would be training him to be the next chief, but on Dragon’s Edge he was the chief, and his leadership gave them security and purpose.

§ § §


There’s something about the darkest part of the night that Astrid found calming. Since Hiccup led the six of them to Dragon’s Edge, she developed a habit of waking partway through the night to leave her hut and drink in the calm. During the day, she was always busy. Living on Dragon’s Edge was a responsibility, and Astrid took the duties there seriously. She honed her battle skills, practiced maneuvers with her dragon Stormfly, and did her share of hunting and fishing. She supported Hiccup as he led, and was willing to fight for all her team: Hiccup, Fishlegs, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, and Snotlout. But the deep night was hers alone. No one—not even the twins—was awake then. When she needed to think or to relax, she turned to the stillness. No one, barring Stormfly, knew she did this; not even her betrothed Hiccup was aware of it.

Tonight, she settled outside her hut to think about Hiccup. He was inattentive and his ability to stay on task was missing. Hiccup’s mind wandered and he missed details. He was jumpier, and Astrid no longer came up behind him or tapped Hiccup on the shoulder. He looked worn, burdened, and dull. Clearly, Hiccup was exhausted.

He refused to discuss his sleeplessness with anyone. Hiccup knew he couldn’t lie believably. They’d all tried fruitlessly to reach him; even Astrid failed to reach him, and he usually listened to her.

Life on their outpost made them a team. The six of them—Hiccup, Tuffnut, Ruffnut, Fishlegs, Snotlout, and herself—learned a great deal about each other. Keeping secrets could get you or your teammates killed in battle, and they were always watchful and when fighting dragon trappers, and Astrid had been walking late one evening when she learned one of Hiccup’s secrets. Walking past his home, she heard sounds from Hiccup’s hut. She wondered if he stayed up to work on a project—he’d done that before. She would kill him if he stayed up late working on some crazy, brilliant, potentially lethal item when he was overtired. She raised the door, prepared to chase him into bed, then stopped. A lone candle burned, casting enough light to let Astrid see the interior. Hiccup and his dragon Toothless slept in the loft, but tonight he lay on the downstairs floor. He hadn’t fallen asleep working, but had bedded down for the night. She drew closer, spotting the sheen of perspiration, and hearing Hiccup mumble and moan. Toothless crooned, one comforting wing wrapped around his friend, and offered Astrid a pleading look.

Hiccup was trapped in a nightmare.

Oh, gods. That explained everything. Hiccup hid this from them because he was afraid of looking weak, unable to admit he needed help. Hiccup was the chief at their outpost, and one day would become chief on Berk. He was in charge of them and needed to be strong and appear capable. Hiccup’s stubbornness brought him through many struggles—laying in a coma, fighting killer dragons, being abducted, getting threats on his life—and he’d survived them all. Hiccup preferred to talk about what was occurring right now, not revisit old pain. Astrid knew he remembered it all and respected his reticence.

For centuries, their tribe had fought: pirates, raiders, other tribes, and the dragons. Astrid knew about the physical damage people in her tribe had undergone, and she knew there existed other damage that was harder to see. Hiccup stood in the center of so much activity, so much attention, and so much risk. He’d sacrifice anything to protect them, protect Berk, and protect the dragons. Even when he had lost everything, Hiccup fought a colossal dragon to save the tribe, risking his life and losing his left leg. He suffered; they all knew what he’d survived. No one considered those times might haunt him, and there was no avoiding the memories in his sleep.






to calm his rider and friend. offered when Hiccup was distraught. Astrid drew closer, afraid someone was threatening Hiccup. No one got to hurt Hiccup, not with Astrid there. She peered inside.

Hiccup was thrashing on the floor, lost in a nightmare. Toothless gripped him in an embrace, hoping to calm Hiccup, afraid to leave him and seek help. The dragon looked at Astrid, pleading for her assistance, and Astrid realized this wasn’t Hiccup’s first nightmare. Astrid closed the door again, paused a moment, and rapped firmly.

“Hiccup? Are you awake?” She heard Toothless give a snort, then Hiccup’s voice.”Astrid? What is it? Is something wrong?”

Toothless nudged the door open to reveal an anxious Hiccup attaching his prosthetic. He stood and stumbled to Astrid, studying her face and searching for her axe. Oh, gods. He thought they were under attack.

“Hiccup, it’s okay. Nothing’s wrong. I...I just couldn’t sleep and thought you might be awake, too. Sorry I woke you up. Um...go back to sleep, Hiccup. ‘Night.” Is the stammering too much, Astrid wondered. She hoped Hiccup wouldn’t question it.

Hiccup smiled at her, and she saw the fear drain out of him. He believed her little fiction of sleeplessness, and his posture relaxed. He had a problem to solve and someone to assist. Good. Next should come...

“Astrid, I am always willing to spend time with you, even in the middle of the night. I’m glad you came here. We can sit and talk awhile, if you want.”

Yup, right on schedule. Hiccup wanted to look after her now. He took her concerns seriously, and decided to comfort her. This man, this good and decent man, cared for her and needed to be needed. Hiccup was now in control of something real and able to put aside the nightmare. She visibly relaxed.

“Toothless, bud, can you come over here? We need a backrest.”

The dragon rose, settling himself behind them and gave Astrid a nod. They were going to discuss Hiccup later. He hated showing weakness, and that was his weakness. Sweet, stubborn, dorky Hiccup needed both Astrid and Toothless to guard him. She couldn’t prevent the nightmares, but she could offer covert solace.

“Thanks, Hiccup.” Her smile was genuine. “This is exactly what I wanted.”


§ § §


“What were you thinking?” Hiccup glared at the twins. “Oh, wait—you weren’t thinking, and we had to put out three fires.” He stood stiffly, frustration in his voice. Tuffnut, oblivious to Hiccup’s tone, answered him.

“We wanted to see how high Monstrous Nightmares could flame themselves. It was an experiment for our record book. We,” Tuffnut stated, “were engaged in scientific discovery. “

“Yeah, we just got some of those Nightmares together so they’d light themselves on fire. We wanted to see how much flame they could make.” Ruffnut’s grin was manic. “It was amazing.”

Astrid, along with the other riders, watched the exchange closely. They and their dragons were exhausted, and the clubhouse smelled of smoke. She saw Ruff and Tuff high five one another and seethed. This wasn’t the first time they’d nearly burned down Dragon’s Edge, but there was no Fireworm infestation this time; today’s stunt was entirely their doing. The other riders, covered in soot and ash, waited for Hiccup’s reaction. His response to the idiocy of the twins ranged from facepalms, eye-rolling, and, “Oh, Thor” to “Why? No, don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.” Today, his restraint with those muttonheads seemed to have run short; Hiccup was turning red, clearly fed up with them both. He raised his voice.

“You agitated a group of wild Nightmares into setting themselves on fire. You started a forest fire, then left while it was burning and moved them to another part of the forest so you could try it somewhere else.” Hiccup tried controlling his voice, and failed. “Then you did it again.”

“Well, yeah,” Tuffnut said. “We couldn’t keep track of the Nightmares’ fire production abilities if burning trees were in the way. Too much extra flame, y’know?” He paused, adding, “I thought you would have figured that out.”

“Yeah,” Ruff added. “Seems obvious to me.”

Hiccup flattened his palms on the table, breathing hard. Wow, thought Astrid. I know they have a death wish. I just didn’t expect Hiccup to be the one who kills them.

He thrust out one arm, pointing at the twins. “You have no idea what you did, do you? We almost lost two watchtowers; if the wind had changed, that fire would have burned down the dragon stables. Every Nightmare on Dragon’s Edge flamed up, and I had to send Hookfang and Snotlout out there to calm down the wild Nightmares and search for any other blazes they set.” He gathered himself together, then said, “We needed them to help put out the fires you set. Hookfang’s wing blasts would have kept the fire moving in one direction, instead of spreading out. By the time they returned, we’d extinguished most of it. But if we had Hookfang and Snotlout available, there’d have been less destruction.”

Tuffnut piped up. “Why would we want less destruction?”

Ruffnut clapped her hand over his mouth and dragged him backwards. Astrid heard her hiss in his ear and hoped she could convince him to shut up. The expression on Hiccup’s face was thunderous, and Astrid knew Hiccup well enough to realize he had never looked like this before.

Fishlegs whispered to her, “He reminds me of Stoick when he’s outraged. But scarier.”

Stoick, the Chief on Berk, was known as short-tempered, and Hiccup knew to avoid his father’s temper. Hiccup was more restrained, substituting frustration for ire; he reserved his anger for enemies like Dagur the Deranged. It was uncharacteristic for Hiccup to become angry at any of the riders. Those chuckleheads might have earned it, but sustained ire at them didn’t occur. Ever. Fishlegs was right. Hiccup furious at one of them was frightening.

His fists were clenched. Astrid noted Hiccup's dragon, Toothless, sidle closer to him and press his body firmly into Hiccup. Those two understood one another on a deeper level, and Astrid observed the interaction. They stared at one another. Hiccup looked at the room, then at the Night Fury. He nodded at Toothless, saying, “You go, bud.” They circled the room. Toothless would stop before a dragon and Hiccup would speak privately to each one, spending extra time with the Barf and Belch. Then Toothless jerked his head toward the doorway and they fled.

They stared at Hiccup. Ignoring the twins, he addressed the others. “The dragons were becoming nervous. I told them they’d done nothing wrong. Toothless made them leave.” Turning back to the twins, he said, “I told Barf and Belch we weren’t angry at them, only you two. They weren’t in a rush to see what our anger looked like.”

“We?”

“Toothless and I.”

Everyone gaped. Hiccup was their friend, a strong, reliable presence in their lives. He tolerated their idiosyncrasies and even laughed about them. He led them for years before they settled on the Edge. Toothless—Hiccup’s best friend and giver of spit baths—was his constant companion. He fought for all of them, but had saved Hiccup countless times— sometimes in battle and sometimes from his own idiocy. They worked together on everything, and no friendship could have been stronger. But the team had forgotten something about the pair.

On the outpost, Hiccup was Chief and Toothless was the Alpha dragon.

Astrid felt a chill. Hiccup—this wasn’t him. The speech, the anger, the intimidation tactics were out of place. He wanted to be angry at the twins. He wanted to shock them. He would use Toothless, use his skill with the other dragons, use his position, to subdue the twins. He wanted them to know he would not tolerate this shit any longer. Astrid could see it. He’d gone somewhere dark, and someone needed to reach him. She stood up and walked over to him.

“Hiccup?”

“Please, Astrid, not now.” His eyes stayed fixed on the twins.

“Hiccup.”

“Later, Astrid.” His tone was deliberate; he wouldn’t look at her. She kept trying.

“Hiccup. Look at me.”

“Don’t push me, Astrid.” His voice, angry and frustrated, spurred her on.

“Look at me, Chief.”

His head snapped around. “Do not call me that.” She heard the fragment of hurt in his words.

Softly, she said, “Hiccup, you wouldn’t listen to me or look at me. You’re ignoring me right now.” She held his gaze. “If you want me to call you Hiccup, then be Hiccup. ”

A hush fell upon the room. Hiccup turned and walked away from her, his shoulders bowed. Toothless followed him, offering him soft croons of comfort. Hiccup reached down with one hand to scratch the Night Fury. His anger faded, and she sensed the tension in the room ease. Hiccup, their friend, had returned from whatever ugly, hostile place held him, and their relief showed in their faces. He was troubled, but Astrid was not leaving him until they sorted out the problem. She looked at Heather, mouthing “go,” and the other girl steered the twins outside, flanked by Fishlegs and Snotlout.

Toothless nudged Hiccup to the table, pushed him into a seat, and settled his blocky black head in his friend’s lap. Astrid sat beside him, placing her hand close to his. Something inside him hurt, and she was not leaving him until he’d told her what was wrong.

“Hey.”

He turned his head toward Astrid and nodded. Then he returned to staring at his lap, avoiding her as much as possible. He couldn’t leave—he knew she wouldn’t let him—but he would keep this inside him if possible. He had looked at Astrid, listened to her, and not ignored her. Now she expected him to talk.

“Hiccup?”

“Yeah, Astrid?” He sounded resigned to answering her.

“What’s the best way to wash Stormfly?”

He gave her an incredulous stare. “What?”

“I want to know if there’s a better way to clean her. I’ve been using soap and a broom, but I think I’m missing itchy spots and loose scales. She seems uncomfortable.” Astrid attempted an open eyed sincere look; it seemed to work for Toothless, and Astrid had nothing to lose.

Hiccup looked bewildered. “Astrid...”

She let exasperation color her voice—not that difficult, he could be aggravating—and asked,“Hiccup, are you listening to me?”

“Yes, I’m listening to you, okay?” Now he was miffed at her.

“Then answer my question.”

He raised his eyebrows at her, but she didn’t relent. Hiccup sighed. “Well, her scales do get dry; that’s probably why she’s itchy. Does she itch in the same places all the time?”

“It looks that way. Do you have any ideas?” Astrid wanted to know what he thought. Stormfly didn’t have any real problems with itchiness, but one day she might, and Hiccup was good at solving weird problems.

“Check to see if you’re cleaning her everywhere, it might just be soap you didn’t rinse out. Examine the harder to reach places first. If she’s clean all over an extra rinse might help, but I’d go with oil, too. I doubt Stormfly would resist anything that made her feel and look better. He smiled. “She’s pretty vain.”

She smiled back. “Thank you, Hiccup.”

He cocked his head to one side. “Do you want my tips on handling her loose scales, or are we done with Stormfly maintenance now?” Toothless sniggered.

“I think we’re done for now.” She placed her hand over his. “Time for a new topic.”

“Look, Astrid, I’m okay. Really, I’m fine, you don’t have to worry about me.” He rose and began pacing.

“Hiccup, I know something’s bothering you. What happened today, the way you acted with the twins, wasn’t normal. You became angry at those idiots, and that’s not who you are, Hiccup.”

“Do you actually believe I had no reason to be angry? They nearly burned down the island, Astrid! They paid no attention to anything around them. The stupid record book they’re making, the need to blow up anything in sight, and the way they waste our time is driving me crazy.”

“I know, Hiccup, I know. Stormfly and I were putting out the fires along with you. Heather wanted to drop them on a seastack without their dragon, and Snotlout was about to launch them out of a catapult. We all understand why you’re mad at them. They didn’t even help put out the fire. I’m impressed you didn’t bring that up to them.”

“I didn’t want them there, Astrid. I can’t trust them with all our safety when they created this fiasco. It’s not worth the risk. I need people I can rely on, not Loki on a dragon.”

Something niggled at the back of Astrid’s mind. A fragment of memory, a...something. Arrgh. She wasn’t going to remember it now, so she’d just keep talking and hope it surfaced. So, where to go from here?

Astrid had never heard Hiccup be so opposed to the twins. He knew Thorston twins lived in some kind of alternate archipelago, but he recognized their good points. Hiccup wasn’t back from wherever he’d gone to previously; worry and fury kept dragging him back. She called herself fearless, and she needed to be that right now, because she was about to stand atop a rumbling volcano and hope it didn’t incinerate her. “They’re wild and do insane things, Hiccup, but they’re pretty good in a crisis. We could have used them.”

Hiccup snapped. “Astrid. Ruff and Tuff play stupid, dangerous pranks, and the rest of us have to clean up their mess. Every single time, Astrid, we get taken away from something important, because they never listen, they never think, and they never do what we expect from them.”

There it was again—that half thought that meant something. Something to do with...Gobber?


“They caused the fires, Hiccup. They ought to be cleaning it up. If we do all the work, they get away with it and the rest of us work harder.” Okay, no eruption yet. Something flickered in her mind—that half thought that mattered. Something to do with...Stoick? Fishlegs? His book?

Fishlegs decided to write the history of the dragon riders, she recalled. He’d been interviewing people from the tribe, trying to pry every morsel of information from people. Stoick stated he had nothing to offer, while Hiccup discussed everything from finding Toothless to the present. For any kind of background, Fishlegs went to Gobber. Stoick was his best friend and Hiccup his blacksmith’s apprentice, so Fishlegs asked him about them.

Gobber loved to talk and couldn’t keep a secret, so Fishlegs was buried in details about Stoick and Hiccup. She heard from Fishlegs that Stoick lived in terror of something happening to Hiccup. When he was younger, Hiccup was scrawny and accident prone and unable to stay put. Coping with Hiccup was a strain on the Chief, and Gobber was his sounding board.

Stoick’d say the same things every time. ‘What do I do, Gobber? The lad has no ability to listen. He argues and makes excuses. He’s driving me crazy. Does the boy never think?’



Something niggled at the back of Astrid’s mind. A fragment of memory, a...something. Arrgh. She wasn’t going to remember it now, so she’d just keep talking and hope it surfaced. So, where to go from here?

“Hi

Gods, Hiccup’s angry at me, Astrid realized. He only gets angry at me when he’s angry with himself. When he thinks he’s failed, or let us down, or been inadequate.






































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